Photo copyright Victor Anthony 2008
I know I generally try to go for an aura of suspense on Saturdays...keep you coming back for more on Sunday, but The Southerner is about to return home after ten days away, and he's bringing a Miss Southerner with him to visit, so I'm not sure how much time I'll have to post tomorrow. She's no relation, but she did play his daughter in the Smoke on the Mountain plays at the Cumberland County Playhouse last year. Also, Sunday Soup will be competing with a wedding and reception tomorrow. We're invited to the reception, which starts right when SS ends, and it's just down the street, so we'll be wandering over there afterwards. Should be fun.
Okay...this week's soup was inspired by all the fabulous (although somewhat expensive) Walla Walla onions available here, locally grown and organic. The Southerner is growing some too, but he had to grow them in the ground, as opposed to the greenhouse, so the ones from the farm are softball size, while his are still maturing (just like him...one can hope, anyway). So today, I tackled French Onion Soup.
I know that this is normally a cold-winter-warm-you-up soup, but when you make it with fresh summer onions and use vegetable stock instead of beef consomme, it's actually quite light. I had been wanting to try it for ages, but didn't have any oven-proof bowls (or at least not enough for all the guests at SS). However, then I learned this nifty trick for serving FOS to guests! A party trick, if you will. You make the soup as usual on the stove, and then just before you're ready to serve it, you put all the bread slices on a cookie sheet, broil them until they're toasted, flip them over and place some Swiss cheese on them, and then return them to the broiler until they're hot and bubbly. When you serve the soup, you simply lay a slice or two of cheesy toast right in the bowl and cover with the soup! Voila! I tried it today and it worked. Boy, did it ever work! Yummm!
I was doubly glad too because earlier in the day I'd been at a garage sale and they had a bunch of the exact kind of bowls you see in all the magazine spreads for French Onion Soup, but you know, they were so ugly and as The Southerner says, "Ugly hurts my eyeballs" and so I couldn't bring myself to buy them. Glad to know I don't need them! At least not for FOS.
And now for a few words about the recipe. I used Tyler Florence's recipe from foodtv.com, but I made some changes. He uses red wine, which seems interesting if you're using beef broth or consomme, but with vegetable stock, it seemed like it would be too heavy, so I went with the queen of French cooking, The divine Ms. Julia, and used white wine. I'm actually thinking that even the white wine sort of overpowers the sweetness of the onions and I might just skip the wine entirely next time. Since I don't drink, Carol donated a few bottles of her homemade wine. Thanks, Carol!
When I was reading the reviews of TF's recipe, a lot of people said they had trouble getting the onions to caramelize and I thought smugly to myself, "Ha! It just takes a while...you have to be patient." Well, after an hour I was no longer patient and my onions were more golden than caramel coloured, which I found annoying. Especially since I caramelize onions all the time. But they were also starting to fall apart and I was in danger of onion paste, so I just went on to the wine step. I think that it might have been because the onions were sooooo fresh that they just had a lot of liquid in them. Who knows? Do you? Any tips? They were plenty sweet...and it all turned out just fine.
A lot of the reviewers complained about this soup taking too much time, much longer than the recipe said it would, and it really did. I think it took me about two or three hours to make this soup! However, I was busy cooking a zillion other things because
I didn't want to spend every minute cooking while Miss Southerner is here, so I planned ahead. Over the last two days I have made:
No Knead Bread (two loaves)
Zucchini bake (a Julia recipe given to me by a reader of this blog!)
Two kinds of enchiladas
A tortellini salad
Onion and cherry chutney
A pot of Chili
A bunch of pizza crusts (now in the freezer)
and I have Swiss Chard from The Southerner's garden ready to sautee the minute they walk in the door.
I probably made a few other things I've forgotten about since I'm sort of wiped out after all this cooking! Are you hungry yet? What are you cooking this week? I will blog about the actual SS at some point, but maybe not tomorrow! Have a good week, and eat your soup!